Enter “La Capital,” as Santo Domingo is lovingly called by fellow Dominican Republicans. One of the oldest cities in the Caribbean, this melting pot of cultures and whimsical quirks is a colorful destination for vacationers straying from their beach resorts. Explore stunning centuries-old churches and the oldest surviving fortress in the center of the city at Zona Colonial, stroll delightful cobblestone streets for vibrant culture and eclectic sights all resounding the love of an island dating back to the 16th century. From authentic tiny restaurants to a living museum, Santo Domingo thrives with an energy you must see to believe.
Where to Stay in Santo Domingo
Check in to the Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel and Casino, a polished four-star hotel right on the beach with a luxurious pool overlooking the ocean, for an adequate amount of R&R nearby the city action. For travelers wishing to stay right in the heart of Zona Colonial, consider the Hotel Villa Colonia. You’ll fall in love with the Art-Deco style reminiscent of the 1920s and surrounding tropical palms. Patrons of Hodelpa Nicolás de Ovando will favor the old-world charm of this restored building still fixed with 16th-century restored hacienda shutters and ochre tile floors – if that’s not authentic living, we don’t know what is.
Things to Do in Santo Domingo
There’s no way to avoid the Zona Colonial, and why would you want to? The central historic district is home to the Alcazar de Colon, which was once the residence of Diego Columbus. Today it’s a museum where you can oodle over ancient artifacts.
History buffs may also take delight in the Museum of the Royal Houses along the Ozama River. The building, which was constructed in 1511 is complete with 20 exhibition rooms filled with galleries that detail the rich history of the Dominican Republic. Another nearby must-see is the National Pantheon. Built in the 18th century as a Jesuit church, it serves as a burial place for the country’s most respected citizens.
For the adventurous spirits, hear to the Los Tres Ojos National Park to the east of downtown. Explore a 50-year, open-air cave that gives way to a series of three lakes. Scan the crystal-clear water to catch a glimpse of turtles and other marine life that call this magical place home.
Beaches Near Santo Domingo
No beach vacation to Santo Domingo is complete without a visit to Boca Chica beach. Just east of town, this is one of the best beaches near Santo Domingo with picturesque white sand and tranquil water perfect for swimming. Further east, Juan Dolio is a small seaside beach town boasting a quaint beach aptly named Playa Juan Dolio. For an even more intimate experience, head to Playa Caribe, nestled between the two, for an ultra-secluded beach day.
What to Eat in Santo Domingo
One visit to Santo Domingo and you’ll immediately notice a zest for life, an appetite for all things vibrant and delicious. Stop in at any of the local restaurants and hole-in-the-wall bistros for an authentic taste of this special destination. Pat’e Palo is a local favorite serving up Mediterranean food with a twist. At Lulu Tasting Bar, share appetizers, or “tapas,” in a social setting. Tres Cerditos Chicharrones serves up some of the best and most creative taco recipes, all with a side of ocean breeze. We saved the best for last with an epic, one-off dining experience. At El Meson De La Cava dine in a natural cave for a romantic date night or special occasion–impeccable service meets gourmet cuisine here.